This is an unusual album with a crossover classical-jazz ethos.
It teams trumpeter Flavio Boltro with pianist Danilo Rea in
all-Italian repertoire and as the disc title makes clear, it’s
all operatic - well, almost all.
Rea is a jazz pianist but had a classical training at the Santa
Cecilia academy in Rome, where he was born. He discovered a
love of opera through Puccini, so it’s appropriate that he includes
some in the album. Whereas Rea has a classical training and
now plays jazz, Boltro is perhaps better known as a classical
stylist who is willing and able to embark on other projects,
such as this one. He studied in Turin and has worked in symphonic
music, but he’s clearly well versed in the lexicon of bop trumpet.
It’s unusual to use Monteverdi as a basis for homage and improvisation
but one senses that Rea in particular, the guiding force, wants
to celebrate the totality of Italian operatic music, and where
better to start than the fons et origo? Rea’s allusive
chording and Boltro’s rich, sometimes fat tone, fuse jazz with
a kind of romanticised idealism in Lasciatemi morire.
Rea turns more experimental in the famous fanfare Toccata from
Orfeo, slithering fingers over the piano strings and
using a very percussive treble as a basis for timbral exploration.
His boppish licks and luscious roulades are complemented by
the declamatory trumpet lines, to produce music of undeniable
It’s fortunate that Rea has thought carefully how he wishes
to present these arias and other pieces. Each is therefore nicely
characterised, as the plangent chording on Rossini’s Dal
tuo stellato soglio demonstrates. I take it that here he
wishes to mark a sharp distinction between playing what sounds
like, in effect, a piano reduction and then launching on fully
fledged improvisation and overt lyricism. The longest track
is Sinfonia dal Barbiere di Siviglia. This allows the
duo the most room for manoeuvre in terms of using terse staccati,
fragmentary themes, and an experimental approach tailed by a
far-out scena, forged from the near cutting-edge. It’s the nearest
they get to, say, The Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Caro mio ben, an aria antiche beloved of singers down
the years, inspires the duo to relaxed warmth complete with
trumpet flurries. Similarly the ‘B’ section of Vivaldi’s Piango,
gemo, sospiro e peno is fruitily boppish, as is much of
O mio babbino caro, once past the opening impressionist
hints from Rea. The duo gets funky on Sinfonia dal Guglielmo
Tell, one of the live tracks. The extra adrenalin imparted
by the audience seems to inspire them to a more raucous, straight
ahead Nat Adderley kind of approach – one to which I’m very
partial. The final track, also live, offers a clement Cilea
Do you file this under Jazz or Classical? Is it jazz on classical
themes, or is it reclaiming the improvisatory prerogative in
classical music-making? For those of us who find such absolutes
restrictive, other than in the strictly filing sense, I’m not
certain that it really much matters. Doubtless highbrows will
find the whole thing a bit cheap. I liked it.